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31 applicants seek a seat on TGH board

Frank Morsani, the Tampa car dealer who took on Major League Baseball, is ready for a new challenge: Tampa General Hospital.

Morsani, among 31 applicants for one of three vacant seats on the troubled public hospital's governing board, added his name after a communitywide call went out for business leaders.

The search for board members was extended to July 1.

"In the community, if you're asked to do something, you should do it," said Morsani, 62, who sued baseball owners over his failed bid to bring a team to Tampa Bay. He said he is unfamiliar with key issues at 1,000-bed Tampa General.

The public hospital has been rocked by low morale, a drop in patient count, an averted $8-million budget shortfall and a management crisis. County Commissioner Jan Platt is planning to ask for hospital president David E. Bussone's resignation.

In addition, 48 nurses have gone public with their attempt to unionize about 1,100 co-workers. Board members countered with offers to make hospital workers civil service employees again, a plan still under review.

Hillsborough County commissioners, who will make three appointments July 14, decided such challenges demanded skilled board members. They delayed the application process and charged Assistant County Administrator Pat Bean with the task of setting screening criteria for board members.

The new application considers experience in business, marketing and planning.

Applicants so far include lawyers, dentists, doctors and investors. George Guida, senior vice president of Manufacturers Bank, has applied, as has John Grimaldi, chief executive officer of Columbia Bank. Dennis Todd, who lost his job as director of the pain management program at Tampa General in the March 18 layoff of 213 workers, also applied for one of the volunteer positions.